by Robert Wright
A reader writes:
To my mind atheism, including the so-called 'New Atheism' project, is not even at its core about God and religion but rationalism, which is to say, a mindset that values reasoned, logical thinking over dogmatism and unwarranted assertions.
I agree that the “new atheists” see their mission as advancing reason. But I think this self-conception can abet self-delusion, making it easier for them to be blind to their own lapses of reason.
I think Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett are confused in describing religion as a “virus” of the mind. After all, viruses are typically parasiticthey spread at the expense of the host. And Dawkins and Dennett would surely concede that, say, the Catholic belief in the wrongness of contraception has helped the belief’s hoststhe Catholicsflourish in Darwinian terms. If Dawkins and Dennett were being truly rational, they’d call religious belief a “symbiont” that can be either parasitic or “mutualistic” (i.e. win-win), depending on the belief in question. (Not every single virus is parasitic, but viruses are so frequently so, and so commonly conceived that way, that the term “virus” universally connotes parasitism, as Dawkins and Dennett well know.)